Addison’s Disease: What is it, its symptoms, what causes it and how is it cured?
Regular functioning of the adrenal glands located above the kidneys is a condition needed by the human body for a normal life.
Regular functioning of the adrenal glands located above the kidneys is a condition needed by the human body for a normal life. The adrenal glands are two small glands found in the human body and they produce two hormones that are crucial for life. Addison’s disease, which is rare in humans, occurs as a result of the insufficient secretion of these hormones, called cortisol and aldosterone. While Addison’s disease can affect individuals of all ages, it is most commonly detected in individuals between the ages of 30 and 50. Studies have shown that Addison’s disease is more common in women.
What is Addison’s Disease?
Addison’s disease is a disease that occurs due to the insufficient production of cortisol and aldosterone hormones produced by the adrenal glands located above the kidneys. Since hormones control the functions of tissues or organs, hormone irregularities cause many diseases and disorders in the human body. The human body secretes many hormones to combat diseases, injuries or stress. The cortisol hormone also plays an important role in the human body’s ability to show the necessary reactions to stress. It also helps maintain blood pressure, heart functions, immune system and blood sugar levels. Aldosterone hormone is responsible for the sodium and potassium balance in the blood. This allows the kidneys to control the fluid released as urine, which affects blood volume and blood pressure.
Addison’s disease is also called primary adrenal insufficiency. The disease, called secondary adrenal insufficiency, occurs when the pituitary gland, a small gland at the base of the brain, does not secrete enough ACTH hormone, which activates the adrenal glands to produce cortisol. The answer to the question “What is Addison’s disease?” can be answered briefly like this.
What are the Symptoms of Addison’s Disease?
The question “What are the symptoms of Addison’s disease?” is a frequently asked question. There are many symptoms that can occur due to Addison’s disease. However, these symptoms often do not appear suddenly. On the contrary, the symptoms appear over time as the function of the glands that cause the disease gradually deteriorates. Among the most common symptoms of Addison’s disease:
- Painful abdominal pain,
- Abnormal menstrual periods in women,
- Desire to consume too much salt,
- Persistence of depression and stress,
- Diarrhea that occurs with disruption of the intestinal order,
- Dizziness or nausea when standing up,
- Loss of appetite that occurs when the body’s balance is disrupted,
- Low blood sugar and low blood pressure,
- Muscles weakening over time,
- The body becomes sensitive to cold,
- Losing weight despite not being on any diet,
- There is a state of extreme fatigue.
In some abnormal situations (such as injury) due to illness or intense stress, symptoms may manifest themselves quite quickly. In this case, a serious condition called adrenal insufficiency, also called Addisonian crisis, occurs. In such cases, immediate intervention is required, otherwise shocks or life-threatening situations may occur. Known symptoms of Addisonian crisis are:
- Feeling very confused mentally, weakened perceptions
- Difficulty staying awake or losing consciousness completely,
- High fever,
- Shortness of breath,
- Severe vomiting and diarrhea,
- Sudden and severe pain in the waist, around the belly or in the legs,
- It can be listed as constantly feeling like fainting.
This situation is quite serious and it is necessary to consult a health institution without delay.
What Causes Addison’s Disease?
Addison’s disease is caused by an autoimmune disorder that occurs when the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues and organs. The immune system of people with Addison’s disease attacks the outer part of the adrenal glands, which secrete cortisol and aldosterone. This causes the disease to occur. However, the only cause of the disease is not the body’s own immune system attacking these glands.
- Injury to the adrenal glands,
- All infections related to tuberculosis, HIV, AIDS and fungal infections,
- Tumor occurring in another area affecting the functions of the adrenal glands,
- Bleeding occurring in the adrenal glands,
- Removal of the adrenal glands by surgical intervention due to another disease,
- Abnormal accumulation of some proteins in tissues and organs,
- genetic defects,
Addison’s disease may also occur due to It is only possible to determine why the disease occurs with a detailed diagnosis.
How to Diagnose Addison’s Disease?
There are a number of procedures followed for the diagnosis of Addison’s disease. First of all, the patient’s health history is listened to, the symptoms are reviewed and a physical examination is performed. Dark spots on the skin may be a clue to proceed to the next stage tests. Blood tests are performed to obtain a more accurate result. The purpose of the blood test is to measure the levels of sodium, potassium, cortisol and ACTH in the blood. The level of these substances in the blood gives the doctor a clue about the disease. A diagnostic method called ACTH stimulation testing, which tests the functioning of the adrenal glands in the body after receiving an injection of artificial ACTH, may also be used. If the adrenal glands produce low levels of cortisol after the procedure, this means that the glands are not working properly and as they should. X-rays can also be used to detect calcium deposits in the adrenal glands.
As the last stage, computed tomography is an option. Computerized tomography provides imaging of the body with the help of X-rays. A CT scan is used to view the adrenals or pituitary glands. Thus, it can be diagnosed whether the body’s immune system has caused any damage to the adrenal glands.
What are the symptoms that occur with Addison’s disease?
The symptoms that occur with Addison’s disease often do not appear suddenly. It occurs gradually because the immune system attacks its own body. This is actually a situation that makes the diagnosis and treatment of the disease difficult. However, knowing people’s bodies well and taking even the slightest changes seriously can ensure early diagnosis of the disease. Disruption of the menstrual cycle in women may indicate many diseases, but it is also possible to occur together with Addison’s disease. Occasional fever and irregular blood pressure are among the common symptoms that occur with Addison’s disease. Pain around the waist and near the kidneys and the spread of these pains throughout the body are also common symptoms. It is very important for treatment to take these symptoms seriously and get examined without wasting time.
How to Cure Addison’s Disease?
In order to correctly answer the question of how to cure Addison’s disease, it is necessary to know the treatment methods. First of all, early diagnosis is necessary for the treatment to be successful. For this reason, any abnormal situation that occurs in people’s bodies should be taken seriously and examined. The most common treatment method for the treatment of Addison’s disease is to externally supplement the body with the hormones that are deficient in secretion. Appropriate medications can be prescribed to support the body that has difficulty producing cortisol. If the cause of the disease is aldosterone deficiency, appropriate drug treatment should be applied. Depending on the situation, doctors may ask patients with vision to consume more salt after intense activities. More salt consumption may also be necessary in hot and humid weather. Additionally, patients may need to carry injectable corticosteroids with them for emergencies. The doctor performing the treatment will provide the necessary information about the use of these injections.
Individuals with Addison’s disease also need to avoid stress. Because increased stress levels during treatment may worsen the condition of the disease or cause the treatment to not work. Therefore, psychological support may also be useful.